Tag Archives: PC

2017 Game Review Haiku, #114 – Mythic Wonders: The Philosopher’s Stone

Uncle is missing
Mystical portals show way
To hidden objects

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

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2017 Game Review Haiku, #67 – L’Héritage Maudit

Anne arrives in France
Needs a room, must help drunk home
Cool style, not done

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #46 – Barb

2016 gd games completed barb

Ordinary day
For an ordinary Barb
Nothing is as seen

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

The beauty is not in the walking in Dear Esther

dear esther paul 0123

On a whim over the weekend, I loaded up Dear Esther. Besides my other plan to beat all those Metal Gear games in order of release, which is moving along swimmingly, thanks for asking, I am also trying to tackle many of the acclaimed indie games from years prior. Y’know, the big small games. The ones that generally feature some sort of unique gimmick and demand you think about things more than just swallow yet another tired, scripted action scene that is supposed to wow you with its bombastic approach at storytelling. So far, in 2014, I’ve experienced Gone Home, Journey, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and Thomas Was Alone. Many more to come.

Other than being set on an island, I knew very little about Dear Esther going into it, which is how I like my videogames to go these days. Alas, we live in a day and age where the Internet can ruin anything for you in half a second–that said, hope you all watched last night’s Game of Thrones episode, gotta get that purp. I do recall some heated arguments about whether or not this is a “game,” just like many rushed to do with Gone Home, mocking them both as nothing more than walking simulators, short films with little to no interaction. With that in mind, I went in expecting a pretty good story and little else–truthfully, that’s kind of what I got, and that’s all right.

In Dear Esther, the player starts off on a dimly lit shore of an uninhabited Hebridean island, surrounded by fog and mountains. Far off in the distance is a tall, metal tower, with a red light blinking every few seconds, the beacon beckoning you towards it. As you explore the island, you’ll listen to a series of voiced-over letter fragments to a woman named Esther, which are revealed in no set order. The narrator’s identity is not specified though it’s easy to figure out he is Esther’s husband or lover. Alas, she’s dead, and that’s not a spoiler, as it is something you learn very early on in the journey. Dear Esther, despite its namesake, is more about the narrator and the island’s former inhabitants than anybody else. To say any more of the story would ruin the experience, especially since that’s all there is here, a story; a good one, mind you, and one that can be seen performed in a number of different manners, but just that.

Controlling the player is as simple as using the [W] key to walk forward and the mouse to look around. You can click on either of the mouse buttons to zoom in a bit for a better look at things. That’s it. Those are all your actions. When you enter a dark room, a flashlight automatically comes on, and it also turns itself off when you go back into the light. After playing for about ten minutes, my finger grew tired of just pressing down the [W] key, and I knew I’d have to do this action all the way until the end credits, but thankfully Dear Esther comes prepared for controller support. I’d much rather hold up on a joystick than keeping a finger firmly pressed into a keyboard, and I suspect I’m not the only one. I do wish there was at least something else to do control-wise; perhaps actually collecting the letter scraps or being able to pick up and examine items on the island. Heck, even a jump button, to push exploration even more. I wanted a little more game in this game; yes, it’s still a game.

The writing ranges from mesmerizing to feverish to a bit overdone, but it’s all backed by a gorgeous, swooping orchestrated soundtrack composed by Jessica Curry that can make any scene, whether it’s looking out at the rough ocean waves that brought you to this seemingly metaphoric island or trapped inside a dark, fungi-lit cave, extremely powerful. There’s strings, there’s piano, and they never overtake a scene, simply raise it up. Crashing waves, rushing wind, and cawing gulls provide additional noise at times too.

Dear Esther is an audio/visual trip, a game bent on delivering those two aspects to you at full force. For some, that’s enough. For an hour and a half of simply walking, it’s just enough. I did want something else to do, another way to play in this gorgeously constructed world, to be part of the island, but no man’s an island. And so you keep walking, keep walking, keep walking, all the way to the end. The darkness that greets you is far from comforting, but there is a sense of completion nonetheless. Quitting to the desktop after too many minutes on a blank screen that screamed the end slightly ruined the effect.

2014 Game Completed Comics, #1 – Gone Home

2014 games completed 01 - gone home facebook

Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even attempt to be thoughtful. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #46 – Deponia

2013 games completed Deponia

Want off trash planet
Solve some tricky puzzles first
Hope you hate English

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

Simple polygon shapes become more in Thomas Was Alone

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A small spoiler right up front, but Thomas is actually not alone for very long in Thomas Was Alone. Sorry, I know. You probably didn’t see that coming, and now your world is crumbling down. Wait, here’s a few more juicy tidbits:  his full name is Thomas-AT-23-6-12, he is a red rectangle, and he is searching for companionship. Just dropping knowledge bombs over here like boom, boom, boom.

As a puzzle platformer, Thomas Was Alone is pretty standard stuff. Maybe even a bit basic in the early levels. Despite being a simple geometric shape, you can jump to climb up and across platforms, with the end goal always trying to reach a shape-specific door somewhere near the end of the level. As you progress, Thomas meets some other shapely friends, like Chris, an cynical orange square, and John, a tall yellow stick-shape. I’ve met a couple more shapes too, but I won’t spoil them all, especially if there are more to come. Basically, the different shapes can jump at varying levels of height, and you have to use Thomas and his friends cooperatively to get over some platforms and hit those doors up. That seems to be the meat the puzzles, unfortunately, and the early levels are beyond easy, finishable in mere seconds.

What takes Thomas Was Alone above its lackluster gameplay mechanics is Danny Wallace, the game’s narrator. He also helped the game earn a BAFTA Games Award. He tells the story of each shape created by a company called Artificial Life Solutions, which experiments on artificial intelligences, and really gives them life, despite them being, without a doubt, geometric shapes with the ability to jump. It also helps that his British accent is calm and commanding, reminding me of the narrator in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It really does help make the somewhat mindless, at times, platforming all the more enjoyable.

All that said, I’ve run into a hardware problem, one that is growing more frustrating every day. I prefer to play platformers with a controller; hush now, it’s how I grew up with them, bouncing Bubsy, Mario, and Sonic to and fro with the push of a button rather than the click of the mouse. I also find using a d-pad or analog stick provides better precision when timing jumps and landings. Your mileage may vary. However, when I plug in my Xbox 360 controller into my laptop to play some Thomas Was Alone, the controller only seems to work 20% of the time. I’ve found restarting the game with the controller still plugged in to work every now and then. But not consistently. And I refuse to play any other way. I do not believe my controller is on the fritz, as it works fine on the Xbox 360, and I was able to load up Super Meat Boy through Steam and start jumping from wall to wall with no problems. Not sure what the deal is, and the game does support controllers, but it’s been touch and go.

I hope I can get this controller stuff figured out, as I’d like to see Thomas Was Alone to the end. Not to see if the puzzles change much, but I want to know what becomes of these shapes. These square and rectangles that have opinions and qualities and desires. That probably sounds crazy, I know, but that’s just how good of a job Wallace does narrating them. Oh, and I do wish the game had Steam trading cards.